Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gassing up

Manhattan is different. There is one gas station within walking distance of my apartment.

A gas station -- within walking distance; that doesn't really compute, does it? Normally, of course, Americans don't walk to the gas station; they drive there. But when I need to top up my antediluvian Johnson two-stroke 9.9 hp auxiliary outboard, I walk four blocks to my local gas station, which is on 96th Street between Riverside and West End. It looks nothing like the bit of American Pastoral above. It's set into the side of an apartment building, like a row of garage doors cheek-by-jowl. If you have a car, you pull into one of these little garage doors, and a man comes and fills your tank -- no self service here -- and then you have to back out onto 96th Street, which is always fun.

It's easier for me. I show up on foot -- which seems to faze nobody -- with a plastic jerrican or two, and the man puts two gallons of gas in each one, and then I take a taxi to the 79th Street boat basin, because you can't take a New York City bus with a gas can in hand; I tried once, and the driver was ready to call in an air strike.

Filling up the gas cans was on my list for today. But when I got to the station, I found that each little narrow garage door was blocked with a folding chair -- the sort of thing we might have sat on at a church picnic down South when I was a lad.

I must have looked a little puzzled, because a remarkably nice-looking -- though slightly grubby -- chap with a wonderful haircut emerged from the bowels of the gas station. I think he might even have been Brazilian, he was so ridiculously handsome. "Closed," he said. "Two how-ers." Rhymes with "showers".

How-ers... how-ers... Oh, hours!

I'll try again tomorrow, before my wife gets home. I don't want her meeting this guy.

After all, he's only four -- faugh-er? -- blocks away. And I'm going to be gone for a while.

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